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Pumpkins Are More Than Fall Decorations

Using pumpkins for cooking plus decorating for Fall.

Nashville, Ark. – Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! Everywhere you look right now you see pumpkins in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Leaves changing colors, scarecrows, and pumpkins herald in the change of season even if the weather does not cooperate. Pumpkins are a staple of fall decorating since they can be used for Halloween decorating and beyond. Soon it will be time to carve your pumpkin into a scary Jack-O-Lantern.

While everyone is thinking of decorating with pumpkins this time of the year, pumpkins add a lot to our diet. Rich in nutrients and low in calories, just one-half cup of canned pumpkin provides 4 grams of fiber, no fat or cholesterol, and only 50 calories. It also provides enough vitamin A for the entire day.

The most common use for pumpkins is for carving, but if you are using it for cooking, look for pie or sweet varieties. These pumpkins are usually smaller and have a sweeter flesh that is less watery. So, when choosing a pumpkin for decorating, look for the Jack-O-Lantern size and choose the smaller ones for eating. It is recommended that you do not eat the Jack-O-Lantern style pumpkins. You can roast the seeds, but once you have cut a face in them and allowed them to sit outside, they are no longer safe to eat.

To peel a pumpkin, cut off the top and then cut a thin horizontal slice off of the bottom. This will help the pumpkin sit flat on your cutting board. Using a large knife, cut slices of the skin off from top to bottom, working your way around the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Discard the pulp. If you would like to save the seeds for roasting later, then thoroughly clean the seeds and set them aside. Cut the now empty remaining pumpkin into chunks.

Pumpkin puree can be made by steaming the pumpkin chunks until they are tender. Drain them well. Place the chunks in a food processor or blender and process until they are pureed. You can also use a potato masher. To remove any strings that might remain, strain the puree through a fine sieve or strainer.

Another alternative is to bake the unpeeled, seeded pumpkin halves in a 325-degree oven for about one hour or until tender. Scoop out the flesh and then puree. Use the pumpkin puree for your favorite recipes immediately, or you may freeze it for up to one year in a freezer safe container.

You can also purchase canned pumpkin. The work has been done and it is convenient. It also works well in most recipes. When purchasing canned pumpkin, be sure to buy plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling which has sugar and spices already mixed in. Read the label carefully to make sure you are buying what you think you are buying.

Pumpkin is a fall favorite! And it is for more than just decorating. Experiment with different recipes containing pumpkins. Muffins, cookies, loaf breads, cakes, dips, made with pumpkin are all delicious! If you would like to receive a free handout on pumpkins, including how to roast pumpkin seeds, contact me at the Howard County Cooperative Extension Service by calling 870-845-7517. You may also visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Recipe of the Week - Peter Pumpkin Squares

This recipe is great for pumpkin lovers. Enjoy it as a snack, dessert or as a quick breakfast bread. This recipe is one of the featured recipes in the handout mentioned above.

  • 1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin

  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar

  • 4 eggs

  • ¾ cup canola oil

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 ½ cups oats

  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • Non-stick cooking spray

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Gather ingredients and equipment.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, and oil. Mix well.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda.
  6. Add the pumpkin mix to the flour mix. Stir well.
  7. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
  8. Pour the batter into baking pan.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.
  10. Yields: 24 servings
  1. Calories – 180, Fat – 8g, Sodium – 110 mg, Carbohydrates – 25 g, Fiber – 2 g, Protein – 3 g.



By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.